Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wabi Sabi Brings Dance to the People

Trip the Light Fantastic was beyond brilliant! 

Atlanta Ballet's Wabi Sabi recently returned to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the fifth summer of performances, and even though a brief rainstorm preceded the performances, the dancers garnered an enthusiastic following—literally.

Atlanta Ballet - Wabi Sabi, IDYLL | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Ballet - Wabi Sabi, IDYLL | Atlanta Botanical Garden

The evening's program was comprised of four numbers throughout the 30-acre Garden, each near or within one of the six Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden installations, and hundreds followed them throughout the evening eager for a chance to see our world-class dancers up close and personal.

Atlanta Ballet - Wabi Sabi, IDYLL | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Ballet - Wabi Sabi, IDYLL | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Choreographed by Atlanta Ballet danceur Heath Gill, the first performance, titled IDYLL, was performed by Sara Havener, Jackie Nash and Jared Tan.

The performance was delightfully playful and beckoned childhood memories of playing outside. It was lighthearted, yet profound and graceful. It spoke to the seriousness of being an imaginative child as much as it did the merriment of being oblivious to the inevitable responsibilities of adulthood. Simply put, it was fun.

Heath Gill, Atlanta Ballet | Wabi Sabi | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Heath Gill, Atlanta Ballet | Wabi Sabi | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Heath Gill, Atlanta Ballet danceur and choreographer—IDYLL was his second performance as choreographer for Atlanta Ballet—is a personal favorite. Because he's incredibly talented, but also from a sense of nostalgia. 

You see, he was among the performers the first time I saw Atlanta Ballet, which was a Wabi Sabi program performed at Atlanta Botanical Garden. This particular event was something of a homecoming for me. I'm grateful Heath was gracious to grant me a photo op on the very ground where his dance was performed.

And it was quite rewarding—as a fan of Heath and Atlanta Ballet—to see so many approach him after the IDYLL performance and personally congratulate him, not only for his brilliant choreographic work on this particular performance, but also for his staring role in the recent world premiere of Camino Real

Whoever added Heath to Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" had brilliant insight.

Three Degrees, Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Three Degrees, Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden

Speaking of dancing, did you know that Bruce Munro's Three Degrees was inspired by Diana Ross of The Supremes? Look at them see the sequin-clad dancers now, don't you? I think this is my favorite of the six installations of Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden and it was created for this exhibition, so you're among the first to ever see this work.

There's also Supremes-era music playing in the Orchid Center where this exhibit is located. Once visitors make the Diana Ross connection, the music makes total's awesome to watch the wave of connection wipe across people's faces.

This exhibit, like the others, is beautiful in daylight, but you get the full effect when the sun goes down. The upper lights—fiber optics—look like strings...until post-sunset when you can see their true brilliance.

Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden

The third number, Ganesha, was choreographed and performed by Meaghan Muller, former Cirque du Soleil aerial artist, in the Rose Garden, and she was magnificent!

The above photo show Garden patrons gathering for her performance, but immediately before that...

Atlanta Ballet, Wabi Sabi, between | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Ballet, Wabi Sabi, between | Atlanta Botanical Garden the new Gardens in Storza Woods, which opened just last month, was the second performance of the evening that included four vignettes. The dancers in this number included Alexandre Barros, Lydia Redpath, and John Welker, the two decade veteran of Atlanta Ballet and founder of Wabi Sabi, which was launched in 2011.

Not named on the program (but obviously planned) for this particular number was Meaghan Muller, but I had the serendipitous vantage of having selected the observation point where she performed throughout the majority of the number.

Atlanta Ballet, Wabi Sabi, between | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Ballet, Wabi Sabi, between | Atlanta Botanical Garden

This number, titled "between", was from my point of view a remarkable love story. Meaghan's character observed, first nearby and later from afar, sometimes actively, sometimes longingly, and eventually, one of the three in the faraway clique noticed her and fell in love...seemingly, love at first sight.

They met mid-pond, mid-reflecting pool, and strolled arms intertwined toward the Canopy Walk into the setting sun.

The fourth and final number of the evening was "the swimmer", a coincidentally apt name given the performance was moved from the Great Lawn into Day Hall due to the earlier rain. Choreographed by Tara Lee, the performers were Alexandre Barros, Kiara Felder, Sara Havener, Lydia Redpath, Jared Tan, John Welker and Olivia Yoch.

Earth Goddess | Atlanta Botanical Garden
Earth Goddess | Atlanta Botanical Garden

If you've never been to Atlanta Botanical Garden and you come for this summer's Light in the Garden exhibition, be sure you find Earth Goddess...all 25 fee of her! 

I love that Earth Goddess is a permanent exhibit, following the two-year Imaginary Worlds exhibition. And I love hearing other visitors saying the same or gasping at her beauty when they see her for the first time. She's a true treasure for the Garden and I'm certain she's a fan of Wabi Sabi.

There are several more opportunities to see Wabi Sabi this summer, and at some fantastic venues! Here are some of the announced performances:

"WHIM" at Sautee Nacoochee
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

"WHIM" at the High Museum of Art
Friday, August 21, 2015
Performance begins 7:00 p.m.

"WHIMat Serenbe
Sunday, August 23, 2015
performance begins at 5:00 p.m.

Atlanta Ballet Block Party
Atlanta Ballet's Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Party 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Some events require tickets. Be sure to double-check Atlanta Ballet's website for Wabi Sabi performance updates.

What is Wabi Sabi and why should you see it this summer? Atlanta Ballet says it best:
"Wabi Sabi takes its name from a Japanese worldview that finds beauty in the sincerity, simplicity, and integrity of the natural world. As one of the newest dance initiatives in Atlanta, Wabi Sabi combines our city's own emerging choreographers with beautiful and engaging venues for amazing outdoor performances that bring art to the people."
I'll see you around Atlanta for some amazing dance...and be sure to check out Atlanta Ballet's exciting 2015-2016 season

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finding "home", but first...a reverse striptease!

The Tony Award-winning VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE is a heartwarming story, with a generous amount of humor, of realizing how precious family is, and it's a story about finding the comfort and security of "home". 

But before the characters relax into this realization, there's a reverse striptease!

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre
VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, now playing at Horizon Theatre, a co-production with Aurora Theatre, is somewhat based on the themes and characters written by the great Russian humorist Anton Chekhov. To be honest here, I'm not all that familiar with Chekhov, but I totally connected with the story on stage, particularly recognizing what I've read of Chekhov's sense of the ridiculous.

This is a story of two middle-aged siblings—Vanya (who remarkably reminds me of my brother who lives in Miami) and Sonia—living in their Pennsylvanian family home, and their estranged sister Masha who travels the world as a rather disconnected flamboyant movie star. The story gets twistingly hilarious when Masha returns home with boy toy Spike, who spends a fair amount of time on stage bare-chested.

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre
VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre

When reunited, the siblings butt heads and, later on, come face-to-face with some tough decisions. With a costume party thrown into the mix, this laugh-out-loud comedy explores love, relationships, friendship, sibling rivalry and a little of the supernatural, but perhaps that's just brilliant insight of the family housekeeper...I'll leave that to you to discern.

We first learn of Vanya (portrayed by William S. Murphey) and Sonia's (portrayed by Lala Chocran) isolated, and rather complicated, existence and are then quickly introduced to the uproariously animated clairvoyant Cassandra (wonderfully portrayed by Denise Arribas). Her foreshadowing channeling isn't immediately nor abundantly exact, but contributes brilliantly and colorfully to the story.  

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre
VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre

We're later introduced to Spike (portrayed by Edward McCreary), who can't seem keep his shirt on—not that anyone was complaining—who shortly introduces us to an out-of-town, aspiring actress Nina (portrayed by Danielle Deadwyler), who makes Masha (portrayed by Tess Malis Kincaid) insanely—almost literally—jealous.

The reverse striptease is as much a surprise to the other characters as it is to the audience, and received with puzzling looks and laughter, respectively. That's all I'm going to tell you about'll just have to see it for yourself. I find myself laughing as I write this...there's a lot of "clever" weaved into this play. 

If you can, imagine the drama of family, jealousy, sibling rivalry, and a totally ripped boyfriend, all coupled with Snow White, a couple of dwarfs and a too are going to love and laugh with this show! And, not to spoil the ending, but there's a twist that some will consider a happy ending. Again, you decide.

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre
VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, Horizon Theatre

Typically when I see a show, an actor or two will stand out as a personal favorites, but this cast performs so incredibly well together that I really can't identify a "favorite". 

Denise—Cassandra the clairvoyant—made me laugh-out-loud the most...she's truly brilliant! Edward—Spike the shirtless boy toy—was incredibly convincing as a naive, life-loving jock, but having the opportunity to meet the actors after the show (love that!), you realize just how brilliant these actors are, and that they're totally acting their characters.

Recently the most-produced play in America, VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE is a must-see. You have through June 28, 2015, to get to Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points to see this remarkable, humorous, heart-touching play. Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

You can impact your own Design for Healthy Living

Design for Healthy Living, the latest exhibition at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), is thought-provoking, interactive, exciting, promising, visual and tactile, and offers opportunities for visitors to provide input for making Atlanta a healthier city—and those suggestions will be shared with our city government!

Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Tristan Al-Haddad of Formations Studio is again at MODA with a spectacular, interactive installation. It's not only fun, it's thought-provoking. And it spans the depth and breadth of Gallery 3! I've seen this exhibition three times now and can't resist the allure of playing with glowing rectangular acrylic boxes inscribed with words relative to the exhibition's message.

Gallery 3 also features a number of case studies—success stories!—showcasing how various projects around the country are creating healthy places to...


Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

As many of you know, I've been a member and fan of MODA since they were located in downtown, a number of years ago. Katie Simms, Exhibitions Manager, was one of the first people at MODA who made me feel welcome and excited to experience the museum. I'm grateful for her kind spirit and brilliant intellect.

Katie is also the curator of Design for Healthy Living and graciously answered a couple of questions for wanderlust ATLANTA readers...

wanderlust ATLANTA: What was the catalyst for the creation of Design for Healthy Living and what epiphanies are you hoping to inspire for those who experience the exhibition?

Katie Simms: "At MODA, we're passionate about the capacity for design to make the world a better place and exhibitions are a great way to explore this. Design for Healthy Living looks at how the built environment can be designed to improve health and well-being for all of us." Katie continued, "If we understand how design affects our health, we will be able to advocate designers, government agencies, and developers for designs that make healthy options available, accessible and affordable for everyone."

Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Design for Healthy Living presents a number of case studies, one of my favorite being what's happening in Little Rock, Arkansas. Wanting to turn their ghost-town-after-5pm downtown into a thriving community, they're building a "Creative Corridor", and it's working. Downtown Little Rock is beginning to thrive!

There's a lot happening to poise Atlanta as a healthier city, too. Of course, as with all projects, the effects of current initiatives will be cumulative, and while we have a long way to go, we are making some excellent progress.

For example, look at what the Atlanta Beltline has already accomplished, which has humble beginnings as a college thesis. This is the largest urban redevelopment project in Atlanta's history and the largest in the United States—a 25-year sustainable redevelopment project that will turn 22 miles of historic railroad and industrial sites into a network of parks, multi-use trails, and public transit that connects 45 neighborhoods around the city. It's pure awesomeness!

Serenbe is another magnificent example. Today it's a high-density, environmentally-friendly development—home to more than 400 residents—located 30 miles southwest of Atlanta. Its roots go back more than 15 years, originating with the now-founders taking their children on a weekend outing to introduce them to the Georgia countryside.

Serenbe is also where Les Dames d'Escoffier International-Atlanta Chapter's "Afternoon in the Country" event is held, but more on that fantastic event later.

Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Museum visitors are getting in on the act, including school field trip students. Personally, I believe its paramount that we teach our children the importance of healthy design options. They're the ones who will make the greatest impact for future healthy cities. 

wanderlust ATLANTA: How and to what degree do you hope this exhibition will influence action by Atlanta government and her citizens to design and build a city for healthier living?

Katie Simms: "I hope that the exhibition will help visitors to look closely at the spaces where they spend time and think critically about how the design of those spaces impacts their health. The exhibition provides several opportunities for visitors to share their observations and ideas, from how streets could be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists to how the Turner Field site could be redeveloped. We will share all of the visitor feedback with City of Atlanta in the hope that it will be used to make our city a healthier place to live."

Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Design for Healthy Living | Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Design for Healthy Living is your opportunity to explore and learn how you can impact your own city's design affecting the health and well-being of your local community, no matter where you live. 

Check out Museum of Design Atlanta's (MODA) website and Facebook page for updates on exhibition-related programming and other awesome events, like LEGOs & Local Beer!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Avenue Q Times Two

I had wanted to see Avenue Q for a number of years...on a few visits to New York City, when I lived in Washington, DC, and even since I've been back in Atlanta. I'd heard approximately a bazillion positive comments about the show...and now I understand why so many love it. And why it's a Tony Award and Suzi Award-winning show! 

But it's so much more than what I was goes in a lot of different directions, but with a singular destination.  

That's me with some of the Avenue Q cast! | Horizon Theatre (in Piedmont Park)
That's me with some of the Avenue Q cast! | Horizon Theatre (in Piedmont Park)

Avenue Q is terrifically funny, delightfully romantic and more than a  little serves as a map that leads to understanding life's purpose. That last part may sound a little heavy, but you're going to have so much fun getting there, and perhaps experience an epiphany or two along the way. AND you have the opportunity to see it at two venues!

Every show I've had the pleasure of seeing at Horizon Theatre Company has been wonderful, and they continue that consistency with the sensational Avenue Q! I'm ready to see it again...and again...and again...

My favorite characters? The entire cast is absolutely amazing. Seriously. They're seriously funny and incredibly talented. But, character-wise—keeping in mind that the characters are puppets AND humans—I was side-splitting cracking up at the Bad Idea Bears. We've all had encounters with them—don't deny it—and now I know what to call them! Just hopefully not calling on them as often as I did in my 20s. 

I felt like I could relate to Princeton (performed by Nick Arapoglou, winner of a Suzi Bass Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical, in Avenue Q). Princeton has had the revelation that there's purpose in life, but he kind of misses out on (part of) life while looking for it. The story is more complex than that though. If you've lived life, you just might recognize some of his predicaments. I know I did.

Christmas Eve...was a total and wonderful surprise! For those who think Christmas Eve is the day before one of the biggest holidays of the year, think again. Think in terms of hilarious, loud (she projects well), demanding, forthcoming, frank, direct and telling-it-like-it-is! Meet the awesome Natalie Gray, who is reprising her role in Avenue Q. That's her in the foreground of the above photo...she's amazing!

The entire cast is fantastic...they seem like they'd be great fun to hang out with!   
"Avenue Q is about finding your purpose in life—whether you are young or old, gay or straight, yellow, red or blue. It fits perfectly with Horizon's mission of connecting Atlantans through smart, positive, provocative contemporary theater that speaks to our diverse community."
- Lisa Adler, Horizon Theatre
I'm always impressed when I see a leader of an Atlanta attraction who is totally engaged and involved. Lisa Adler, the co-founder and Co-Artistic/Producing Director of Horizon Theatre, not only introduced the show, she was there after the show helping theatre-goers get photos with the cast...that's totally awesome. Lisa is one of Atlanta's gems!

There are a couple more days to see the "PG-13 Edition" at the Promenade in Piedmont Park—very near Atlanta Botanical Garden, where Legacy Fountain is located. You can even bring your own picnic! Remember to bring blankets or low beach chairs. There is reserved seating—at the front—for $15 plus tax and fees, and there may still be some free tickets. Those are great too...the show is on a full-size stage! 

The PG-13 version maintains the basic story line and the comedy of the original, but is edited for content to make it appropriate for teenagers. But take note...neither production is intended for young children.

Personally, I can hardly wait to see the "Adult Version"! Described as a "politically incorrect cross between Sesame Street and The Simpsons".It's playing at Oglethorpe University's Conant Performing Arts Center Friday, June 12, 2015, through Sunday, July 12, 2015. I've been going to Oglethorpe University Museum of Art for years—love the Gothic Revival campus—but this will be my first time at Conant...can hardly wait! There will be a few "PG-13" performances at Conant, as well.

Tickets are going FAST! If you want to see Avenue Q—and I think a LOT of you will—get your tickets now. I feel like I'm one of the last of my friends to see Avenue Q, but now I find myself among those who will see it every chance I get!

I'd like to offer a special "Thank you" to BRAVE PR and Horizon Theatre for the tickets. The show is totally awesome and that's my own opinion! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Some of the 250,000 Reasons I Blog

I want to extend a heartfelt "Thank you" to all my friends and fans and museums and attractions in Atlanta who have supported wanderlust ATLANTA over the last four-plus years. I'm extremely excited to share that a couple of weeks ago, while attending an Atlanta Ballet performance, I surpassed the milestone of more than 250,000 views on wanderlust ATLANTA. I'm incredibly grateful for all the support!

Best friends and supporters of wanderlust Atlanta, Barry, (me) Perry and Scott

I love telling the story of how wanderlust ATLANTA started, so thanks for allowing me to share it again. And while I'm at it, I'd love to share some celebrity spotting experiences—a hobby of mine—I've had since I moved back!

Marina Sirtis at Dragon Con
I had lived in Atlanta for (nearly) 15 years—1987-2001—then moved to Washington, DC, for nine—2002-2010—and moved back to Atlanta 4.5 years ago. While I was gone, Atlantic Station popped up out of nowhere and the High Museum of Art doubled in size, as did the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Atlanta was a very different place from when I previously lived here.

To familiarize myself with the city again, I decided to start a blog, something I'd thought about doing when I lived in DC, but never got around to. It was the best thing I could have done! I learned more about Atlanta in the first year after returning than I had in the 15 years I lived here before and it's been so much fun, I'm still blogging nearly five years later!

It'd be impossible to thank everyone who has made this such an amazing journey, and those who continue to make it so, but I'd like to name a few.

Thank you first and foremost to my friends who supported my enthusiasm to share all the wonderful experiences that Atlanta has to offer via the blog, even before anyone ever knew of wanderlust best friend Barry, and dear friends Perry, Scott, Mary Jo and Jeff.

A special thank you to fellow bloggers who have been a great inspiration to me over the years, Lesli Peterson of 365 Atlanta Family, Sue Rodman of Field Trips with Sue and Terry Kearns of Architecture Tourist.

With Tamoh Penikett of Battlestar Galactica

I'd also like to mention a few people I've met through wanderlust ATLANTA who have become dear friends...Patti Davis and Carrie Burns of Atlanta Movie Tours. Sally Smith, aka Margaret Mitchell of their Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Tour is also a special person to me. John Daniel Tilford of Oglethorpe University Museum of Art has also been a great friend. 

With "Margaret Mitchell", aka Sally Smith

Also, Katie Simms, Laura Flusche, Neil, ClareCarrie and Barbara, all of Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), have treated me like museum family for years...thank you! Martha and Hillary of Atlanta History Center are so incredibly sweet and super supportive...Thank you! Deanna Smith of Fernbank Museum of Natural History is so much're awesome!

With Connor Trinneer at Dragon Con

Chelsea and Kellie of Brave PR have been and continue to be amazing! I've loved The Fox Theatre since I moved here in 1987, but their support of wanderlust ATLANTA has afforded me a whole new theatre going experience by attending—and then writing about and otherwise promoting—Broadway in Atlanta performances, as well as other experiences via their client database. They've always made me feel like a VIP! 

With Roseanne

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of my favorite Atlanta attractions...Atlanta Botanical Garden, where I've been a volunteer since I moved back; Dragon Con, now one of my annual traditions (seriously, I request that vacation time at least nine months in advance!); Medieval Times Atlanta much fun!; Oakland Cemetery; Delta Flight Museum; Gibbs Gardens; Piedmont Park; SkyView Atlanta; Center for Puppetry ArtsZoo Atlanta...the list goes on and on and on!

A few restaurants that I've especially enjoyed over the years include Livingston, Sun Dial, Agatha's and Watershed...oh, and Peachtree Food Tours! Again, this is Atlanta...we have thousands and thousands of dining options!

With Margaret Cho at The Tabernacle
Thank you for indulging me in sharing a few celebrity photos...celebrity-spotting has been a "hobby" since I met Leonard Nimoy in 2002, a profound experience for me and an incredibly sad loss when he passed away earlier this year. His kindness, humor and love for his endeavors encouraged me to meet others from Hollywood and other fame. It's been great fun!

Supergirl at Dragon Con

Again, THANK YOU to everyone who has supported wanderlust ATLANTA and followed its Facebook page. I am honored and extremely grateful for the time and support you've given and continue to give my genuine desire to share all the wonderful things to see and do in and around's been a "super" experience! 

I encourage your to stick around for another quarter never know what you might see!